Ending the Semester Gave Me Feelings

Like all the dogs I’ve met at dog parks, my students are leaving me to return to their real parents. For the last month, I have relentlessly complained about the pain these kids regularly inflict upon me, how they defy my attempts to get them to work, how they call their parents on me, how they push to see just how close they can get me to packing my bags and heading for the woods. Even after a month of this onslaught on my peace of mind, I find myself sad to see them go.

This looks more appealing every day

Because I love suffering and hate taking breaks, I took a class during the Summer a few years ago during my undergrad. There was only one assignment. We had to write a novel in 10 weeks. For 10 weeks, I obsessed, complained, and suffered over this huge project, and then it was over. In the end, I had poured hours and hours into this monstrous draft, and then it was done, and I missed the misery. That book was utter trash, but it was my trash, and I had worked harder on that trash than I had on anything else up to that point. Despite what I’ve drunkenly yelled at several emails recently, my students are not trash. They’re much better than the awful book I churned out, even if they’ve made me suffer seemingly for their amusement.

Hey look, 10 weeks of my life

Now that their time with me is ending, it’s much easier to recognize how good a group they were. There were certainly bad moments, and some students acted like utter asses for most of our time together, but those students brought it together toward the end, and it is easier and more gratifying in the moment to complain about the unpleasant times than it is to acknowledge the surprisingly decent ones. Teaching feels like seeing a Michael Bay movie: it’s loud, the people are all a little sweaty for no reason, and everything feels like it’s right about to explode. However, it can be really enjoyable if you don’t expect it to be anything else and you learn to work with explosives.

My feelings about my work in kitty cat form

I’ve noticed that as each group of students flees the purview of my iron fist, I am afflicted with what I’ve been told are feelings. During my everyday activity, I try not to feel anything more than vague anger and unremitting disappointment in myself and almost everyone around me. Now, however, I have an uncomfortable warmness where I usually keep my dissatisfaction. Like a confused man petting many lions, I think I feel pride. Despite my best efforts to bring them down to my level, my students are generally optimistic about their future, and they probably should be. I begrudgingly admit that high school students can be clever and creative, and they can actually get work done if it happens to fall under the 34-minute window in the day when they’re motivated to do anything unrelated to the hormonal buzz that has seized their faculties.

 

I’m comforted by how little I remember the details of some of my high school teachers. I remember general impressions and short vivid scenes, but most of what I have is a vague sense of who they were and how I felt about them. If that same thing applies to these kids, in 10 years they’ll think back to me and live in their vague impressions verified by a few vivid scenes. So they’ll remember I’m weird and like puns and talked too much about my cat more than anyone should. They’ll also probably remember a fuzzy sense of frustration and rage because writing is hard, and I made them do a lot of it. So in a few years, they’ll  think of me as a fluffy-headed, weird guy making bad jokes about writing who they’re mad at but not certain why.

19 Replies to “Ending the Semester Gave Me Feelings”

  1. Man….It’s really nice to see you open up and let it all out like that…. All kidding aside… I applaud you for making a difference in their lives and I thank you for writing funny shit for us to read along the way…..

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  2. I don’t understand the petting lions phrase. As a cat lady who crochets who is a man and strokes his many pussies, I was lost here in this Dead Poets Society moment of lion petting. I think now as teachers and in the hierarchy of the teaching profession you must now always speak to me as your Big Daddy. You are more a lion and less an irritating harpie. Your goal in life is now to be an irritating harpie on paper for the administration which means being a lion to the students. Then, in our personal lives, I’m your big daddy.

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  3. A man who loves his suffering, isn’t that something?? I really wanted to make fun of ‘petting all the lions’ but I’ll keep that for next time, may be for when you decide to publish your trashed novel. Will you please publish that novel and send us all the link???

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  4. I get how you feel. It can be hard to see your students go at the end of the year, no matter how irritating they can be. We do our best to impart some knowledge on them and in the process they impart a lasting mark on us. Anyway I’m new to your blog but I think I’ll stick around because you made me laugh.

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  5. With each post I’m reading, I get happier and happier that our blogs crossed paths. I’m pretty sure that you will be remembered by your students many years from now.

    I also had a brief teaching experience (with kids and adults) and every now and then I think about how much I still miss my first group of first-graders.

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  6. Every year, I realize all the things I did wrong as a teacher, and I am absolved by the submission of final grades. I am looking forward to next year and finally having my own classroom, lucky year number four. My students hated the idea of writing but actually really got behind creative writing prompts. And you’re not lion about the joy of working with students.

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      1. Yeah, it turns out that teaching is really friggin’ hard. Who knew? I thought I could just Matrix style transfer my education to my students through cerebral download, but it turns out that with budget cuts we don’t have those neural interface cords, anymore.

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  7. I had forty-one of those soul searching end of the year conversations with myself and over the past three years have done a nine-week long term sub, this past one my last. I still have the conversations and you will too. Thanks for teaching.

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